American race car star Kyle Larson is impressed with the talent of local New Zealand speedway drivers in the International Midget Series.
The NASCAR race winner is in New Zealand for the five-round series and stormed to victory in the 30-lap feature at Vodafone Speedway Western Springs on Saturday night against the best midget drivers from Australia, the United States and New Zealand.
"Your normal New Zealanders are really good and then a couple of the Australians were competitive as well," Larson told The Herald. "Obviously the Americans are always good when they come here."
Speedway racing in the United States is naturally a lot bigger, which means there are more race meetings and the drivers spend more time honing their craft.
Larson feels the overall standard is better back home he acknowledges that the drivers at the pointy end of the field here compare favourably to those full time racers in the US.
"I guess it is somewhat similar," he explained. "The States is probably is a little tougher because you have more competitors to race against and they have a lot more experience than the people that race here because they are racing 50 times a year.
"There are still some competitive guys here.
"[Michael] Pickens always runs really, really good. When he comes to the States he is one of the best so if you can run with Michael here you can compete with anyone in the States."
The 25-year-old Larson will race twice more in Auckland this week – tonight's King of the Springs meeting that honours American racer Bryan Clauson, who died in 2016 and was a regular to these shores, and Friday night's world 50-lapper.
He then returns to the United States for the famous Chili Bowl speedway meeting at Oklahoma in mid-January before preparing for another NASCAR season with the Chip Ganassi team.